Surface roughness and diffraction are two factors that have been observed to affect the accuracy of flaw characterization with scanning laser acoustic microscopy. In accuracies can arise when the surface of the test sample is acoustically rough. It is shown that, in this case, Snell's law is no longer valid for determining the direction of sound propagation within the sample. The relationship between the direction of sound propagation within the sample, the apparent flaw depth, and the sample's surface roughness is investigated. Diffraction effects can mask the acoustic images of minute flaws and make it difficult to establish their size, depth, and other characteristics. It is shown that for Fraunhofer diffraction conditions the acoustic image of a subsurface defect corresponds to a two-dimensional Fourier transform. Transforms based on simulated flaws are used to infer the size and shape of the actual flaw.